Friday, April 4, 2008

Reflective Essay

My personal and academic growth was completely unexpected on my senior year of high school. Looking at my schedule in August I remember thinking colleges will only focus on your first quarter grades, and then you can just slack off. Although I completed the first part of my plan, slacking off just didn’t seem like the right thing to do. I felt the obligation to respond positively to the hard work of my teachers. Event though Posse took over my life for the first half of the school year, making it difficult for me to focus on my school work, I was highly encouraged by the quality of the assignment the we were given. Unfortunately, even though the assignments seemed fun, I had the hardest time getting used to explicating.

The first thing we explicated by the poem “Red Shift”. Although the poem was really interesting I just didn’t know how to take it apart. I was used to the literal analysis that I had been doing for the past three years, and finding the “deeper meaning” and the “author’s purpose” just didn’t come to me easily. The next explication paper was on the book The Stranger. After reading the book and having in depth class discussions I was really impressed with the character of Meursault. I am a very emotional person coming a cross character who didn’t show a bit of emotion at his own mother’s funeral was really sticking. I was impressed by how much his struggles allowed him to find meaning. I also like how he made me realize that just because society expects certain reactions from you in specific situations; it doesn’t mean that you have to abide by them.

Later on in the year, when we picked up A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, I was finally able to master the art of explicating. Having my own strand to work on made the explication and analytical process a lot easier. I was prepared for class discussions and ready to share my bazaar theories. Reading the Portrait, as well as the criticism at the end, have encouraged me to look at things in a feminist prospective. Although three of my best friends consider themselves to be feminist, I have never been too interested in the subject. I though the feminists were just women who were frustrated with their own lives and used gender discrimination to excuse their failures. After reading the feminist criticism and a little bit about its background helped me realize that my idea was completely wrong. Looking at literature with a feminist eye has helped me to discover new theories and explications for the actions of certain characters.

When we were assigned to pick a page from A Humument, I was really excited because all of the pieces were phenomenal. I ended up picking a portrait of a man, which seemed to be the least original of the bunch. Although it was not colorful and extravagant, I felt like when I was writing about it I was using all of the knowledge that I gained this year. I was able to explicate every detail with success and actually understand my own theories. I also used to feminist information from the Portrait to back up some of my points. Having this be one of my final papers was really great because I made me feel very intelligent. I knew what I was doing when I was writing and even surprised myself with some of the ideas I came up with. It was really rewarding to see that all of my hard work had paid off and that I actually remembered the majority of the things I learned.

These past three quarters have played a crucial role in my academic and personal growth. Although I still have a lot to learn about explicating, I feel like learning about it has helped me to understand literature better. I am able to make up my own theories and actually prove them, which is really rewarding. I am more confident with my writing bringing up new and diverse ideas. I know that taking this class and working hard has paid off because I am constantly taking the material I learned here and using it in other classes and environments.

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Part two of A Thousand Splendid Suns is about a little girl Laila and the events in her childhood. The section ends with her on the floor unconscious and unaware of what had just occurred. Her house had been bombed and her mother and father died.
In the first passage, Laila sees that “a fluorescent light shines from the ceiling above. “A woman’s face appears, hovers over hers” (174). The figure staring down at her is Merriam. The way in which Hosseini describes Merriam is almost as she were an angle; an angle with glowing light all around her. This is very significant because once Laila marries Rasheed and they all live together, Merriam is Lailla’s Angel. She protects her and looks after her as is she her mother. Towards the end of the book, Merriam even sacrifices her life for Laila. She kills Rasheed and turns her-self in to be executed.

The next passage describes a man looking down at Lila. This man is Rasheed. Hosseini writes that “his lips move but make no sound. All Laila hears is ringing.” (174). This is very important because once they get married, Rasheed’s comments are nothing but sound to Laila. He does not believe in women rights or education, therefore goes against all the Babi taught Laila when she was growing up. She thinks Rasheed is ignorant when he says that she should always be covered when in public and stop speaking with big words.

The third passage brings Merriam back in the picture. But this time, Merriam’s words are also just sound because “Laila can’t hear anything but the ringing” (174). Hosseini shows that there is a different side of Merriam. Since the ringing, which is associated with Rasheed’s mean character, is transported to Merriam, it is suggested that she has a mean character as well. This other side of hers’ is revealed when Leila marries Rasheed, even though considering Merriam’s disapproval. When Leila finally moves in Merriam snaps at her saying that she “won’t be [her] servant..[that] she won’t take orders from [her]” (702). This ringing that comes from Merriam is foreshadowing her future attitude towards Lila.

Finally the last passage begins with Leila remembering her father. Eventually she sees Merriam’s face again. Then, “mercifully, the pink pill again. Then, a deep hush. A deep hush falls over everything.” The order in which Hosseini writes the events in this passage foreshadows Leilla’s life. Her father Babi and everything he has taught her will no longer be. The “pink pill” will change everything and Leilla’s laughter and freedom will soon be “hushed” by her marriage with Rasheed.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Candy Cigarette

Sally Mann captured many images with the intention to evoke different interpretations for each of her photographs. Candy Cigarette, a photograph of Mann’s two daughters and son, portrays the identity of each child through their body language. In this photograph her children’s personalities are strongly highlighted with the use of color and posture, as well as their use of props. The children each seem to be at a different stage in their lives and their attitude towards their individual persona is easily identified.

Looking at this photograph, we are immediately engrossed to the image of a juvenile girl in a white dress holding a cigarette. Judging from her posture and the way she is holding the cigarette, we perceive a sense of maturity and adulthood. Her right hand folded across her chest gives the viewer the impression that she is a diffident and a reserved young female. On the contrary, her left hand, which is holding the cigarette, depicts her as arrogant and imperious. Although her body language is recognized as that of a woman, it is evident that she is just a young girl. The black watch on her right wrist can account for the distortion between her appearance and her age. Time for her seems to be an issue that’s affecting her identity. Her small body and innocent eyes reveal her young age. Unfortunately, her young age is nothing of which is proud of. Her messy hair and pompous posture unmask her rush to grow up, be independent, and fit her own definition of a mature woman. Although it is evident that she is not the eldest amongst her siblings, her sophisticated body posture and advanced mentality suggests otherwise.

Far off in the distance a male figure appears on walking stilts. Although he appears to be the eldest in the photo because of his larger body structure, his mental position lies between his two sisters. He is unstable even though he can identify with both of his sibling’s attitudes. His white shirt illustrates his connection with his “oldest” sister’s point of view. He too is desperate to grow up, but his transition into adulthood is still debatable His dark shorts, which in color are similar to his younger sister’s dress, evoke a link between the two siblings. The short trousers may represent the memories of his life as a smaller, younger person, that he is still holding on to. His younger sisters, along with his short trousers, provide him with the notion of infancy making it harder for him to find a balance. Even though the tall stilts supply him with a feeling of superiority and authority, he is still tottering on the line between childhood and manhood. Unwilling to decide between the two extremes, he is walking into the darkness, approaching the light emerging through the trees, hoping for stability.

Unlike her brother, but very much like her older sister, the little girl in the gray knows exactly what she wants. The white lace on the little girl’s dress, which is a smaller version of the lace on her sister’s dress, represents the bit of similarity between the two females. The “oldest” girl wants to be a mature woman, while the youngest girl wants to enjoy her childhood. Although this connection is inferred, the youngest girl shows disapproval of her older sister’s doings and beliefs by facing the opposite direction. Her up held messy ponytail represents her will to run around and play infantile games. Her loose curls manifest her inattentive attitude towards her looks. She has not yet reached the age at which her appearance is of high importance; which can account as one of the differences between her and her older sister. The few natural highlights in her hair suggest that even though she is just a little girl, the roots of her personality are already sprouting. She positions her arms in such a way as to convey a sense of innocent arrogance in her rising character. Her slight inclination to her right indicates her on going momentum to enjoy her childhood while developing her persona.

As a mother and photographer, Sally Mann captures her children’s characters as well as her own maternal emotions She seems to be aware of the maturity level of her “oldest” daughter and through this photograph; Mann shows her acceptance towards her daughter’s coming of age. She trusts that her daughter will grow up to be a responsible young lady, and shows her certainty by allowing her to hold a cigarette in her photo. Mann also shows her awareness of her boy’s instability by having him walk on stilts. She realizes that he is just going through a phase and that he will eventually find his true self as a young adult. Mann expresses the up coming stability of her boy by having him walk in the direction of the light emerging from the trees. Finally, Sally Mann shows her satisfaction with her youngest daughter by letting her be who she is. Her casual attitude and her developing character give her mother something to look forward to. The path on which Mann’s children are standing on symbolizes their long lives ahead of them. She feels confident that each of her children will grow up and have prosperous lives. But the surrounding forest indicates her constant protection over them. Even though they are developing, as their mother, she is alert in the background ready to keep them on the right path.


As I leisurely woke up and regained my coincidence, I was immediately exposed to what seemed to me like a pink cloud. With in this cloud there seemed to be a tall figure wearing every shade of pink possible. As the pink cloud vanished and I recuperated my sight, I was able to make out that the tall figure was the one and only, Ballerina Barbie. Along with her, came my older sister wearing the same colorful jacket she had been wearing when the accident occurred. I could recall us driving around the park on our four-wheelers on a cold October afternoon. We had decided to race and see who would get from one end of the park to the other first. As I made my last turn I could hear the victory chant coming from my cousin who was standing at the finish line. As I was making my turn, my sister appeared from the bushes and very ungracefully, crashed right into me. I broke my left arm, cracked the bone of my right arm, and became a victim of sister’s bestiality. In order to compensate for her vicious actions, Toa bought me the only thing she knew would make me forgive her. Owning Ballerina Barbie had been my dream since my mother demanded I take ballet lessons with my sister.

At the age of seven, when Toa had decided she wanted to be a dancing princess, my mother forced me to follow my sister’s footsteps. Dancing had always been something I whished I was good at, and coming to this realization at the age of five, had been quite distressful. Toa was an extraordinary dancer and what bothered me the most was that she wasn’t cocky about it. She was always willing to help people, and she couldn’t receive a compliment without replying, “Thanks, you did really well too.” On the other hand, I was always the kid they put in the back row with the excuse that I was tall. Dancing was not one of my fortes, and being surrounded by great dancers only filled me with frustration because I knew I wasn’t nearly half as good as they were.
Unable to succeed at dance rehearsals, I would sit against the long mirrors and imitate my sister’s moves, with Barbie. I expressed my passion for dance by moving Barbie’s arms and legs in different positions. Barbie was capable of doing things I always dreamt of doing. Through her skinny little arms and flexible legs, I expressed myself hoping to one day become like her. Owning Ballerina Barbie gave me a sense of hope. Barbie could do anything, be anything, and through her, I thought I could too.

When my family first moved to the US, Barbie, once again, became my link to the things I wished I could do. Adapting to our new home seemed impossible and learning English became a full time job. My lack of understanding of this foreign language caused my sister and me to attend different schools. I attended a bilingual school where I would learn to master this new language, while she attended an all-English school. Her advanced level of comprehension discouraged my hopes of ever learning the new language.

At home and at school, I closed myself and mastered the art of mumbling. Perfecting my “expressing myself through Barbie” skills I began to speak “English.” Barbie would express my thoughts and feelings through a series of sounds and peculiar gestures. I saw Barbie as a gateway for doing all the things I only wished I could do. Whenever I felt like a task was impossible, I recruited to my all knowing, all doing: Barbie.

As I grew older, I came across challenges that forced me to face reality. When taking a test at school, I had to study and do well. When playing sports, I needed to get into shape and learn the new skills. Slowly I began to dig an abysm between my Barbie and my life. I began to take risks and came to the realization that if I wanted to accomplish anything in life, I had to do it myself. Looking back it seems unusual that someone would use a doll as form of expression. But for me, not only was she a form of expression, but also a factor in my life used to shut down reality. I was afraid of making mistakes and not living up to my sisters’ accomplishments. Her talents intimidated me and made me feel miniscule. Fortunately enough, she always encouraged me to try my hardest and to never give up. Even though Barbie provided me with a sense of accomplishment, she never gave me the love and encouragement my sister did. I love Toa and I’ve learned to look at her success as inspiration to attain my own individual talents and achievements.

Come on Peopl

“There is another thing that little boys don’t do anymore: go to church. When we were kids once a week we had to get dressed to the nines in clothes we’d rather not wear and spend an hour sitting and kneeling quietly in a place we’d rather not be. But this was a useful and necessary discipline… We learned self-control, and we knew the consequences if we didn’t… Today many boys don’t go to church and couldn’t even put their clothes on straight if they did… Sadly, the first real suit many of them get to wear is colored orange” (4-5).

Come on People blew me away just after reading the first few pages. This passage really struck me because religion seems to be a very big issue in today’s society. It’s really surprising to see how the majority of the student body in our schools doesn’t believe in a God. They don’t understand what it means to have faith in something that is greater than them. To be completely honest, as a raised Catholic I question my religion plenty of times. I was always contradicting what the priest said during mass and although my father always told me that faith is the key to any question, I never accepted anything. A couple of years a go, my sister and I were lucky enough to meet to exchange students from Italy. The belonged to a movement called Community and Liberation. The girls invited us to attend one of their meetings and eventually to join the movement as well. I’m not going to say that joining this movement was one of the best things that happened to me, but it definitely allowed me to understand my religion. I am a Catholic and I do believe in God and think this has helped me immensely at different moments in my life.
It’s really sad to see kids who say they are atheist with out even knowing what that really means or even understanding a certain religion.

Bill Cosby says that although little boys disliked going to mass, it taught them respect and self-control, something that is lacking more and more know a days. Although little kids don’t quite understand the meaning of faith and God, being in an environment that teaches them to be respectful children and the difference from right and wrong will help them become better people. Although I still disagree with many of the things the Catholic Church teaches, I do think that believing in something and being in an environment where people can relate to your feelings and believes is very important. Being religious does not mean one has to be restricted to do anything out of the norm, it means that one lives one’s life with meaning and awareness.

Grandpa Pedro

Can you imagine a large, angry ogre as a kind, loving man? Although these two sets of contradicting characteristics are hardly ever used to describe the same person, I can assure you that at different times in my life, each set described my grandpa Pedro.

“Hurry, Hurry, finish your food, grandpa’s coming!” is what was expected from grandma every night at the dinner table. Don’t get me wrong, grandma Elina was a great cook, but whenever she included bell peppers in her meals, it was impossible for me to even attempt eating whatever else was on the plate. I was never a picky eater, but like my mother, there were a few things that were not included on my “favorite things to eat” list. I hated peppers, and just about any other cooked vegetable. Whenever they happen to be included in the meal, it became a battle between my grandma and I when she tried to feed me. Unfortunately, I was always defeated in the battle as soon as grandpa set foot in the house. He was a tall, gray haired man with thick glasses and a deep voice. He never said hello when he entered the house, but you knew he was home when you heard the front door slam shut. He was a scary man. Or at least that’s what grandma wanted me to think. You see, she always got me to eat her food by saying that if I didn’t eat it, grandpa was going to get really, really upset. She said that he would take me to his workshop and punish me severely.

As you might have already guessed, growing up I never had much interaction with grandpa Pedro. He was always in his workshop building or fixing something. He spent long hours in the hospital and sometimes days at his religious center. He was always involved in the community and barely spent any time with his family. You see, he had a very big heart, and this I know from the many times he brought home homeless people in order to feed them and give them some clean clothes. One time, he even built a small shack in the back yard and hosted a homeless man until he died. Regardless to all of his kind actions, I had always dreaded his presence. After all of the fear my grandmother had built up in me against grandpa Pedro, I tried to stay as far away from him as possible.

On October 20th 1996 the whole family was to be united at my grandparents’ house to celebrate my uncle’s birthday. Two days before the party, my cousins and I had basically moved into the house so that our mothers would have time to organize and prepare everything for the big event. We all slept in one room like a herd of wolves under a cave and had adventures around the house. Playing pirates was one of our favorite games. We always pretended the treasure was in the same room, but somehow were always excited to discover it under the same bed every time.

On this particular occasion, my second cousins from Quito had been invited. They were the eldest of us all, and weren’t easy to get along with. We had asked them to play pirates with us and they responded “NO!”, in an arrogant manner. They always thought themselves better then us and too old to get involved in childish games. After long hours of searching for our treasure, we found the “hidden” room. But to our surprise, our evil cousins had locked the door. In desperation to dig out our treasure, I went for the set of keys on grandpa’s nightstand and ran back to the door. I tried every key and when I finally found the right one, I was struggling with the doorknob. As my cousins hurried me to unlock the door, we suddenly heard a crack and everyone stopped. I pulled the key out, but only half of the key was on the keychain. Right at that moment, we heard the front door slam shut and everyone, except for me, scurried in different directions.
As I felt the tall figure approach me, I closed my eyes and like a defenseless little ant, I waited to be hurt. Suddenly, I was elevated and when I opened my eyes, I was in grandpa’s workshop. This was when I knew the end had come. I looked around and all I saw were tools of massive destruction. There was a hand drill, a few hammers, wooden saws, wrenches, and even a long orange thing that looked like a snake. There were old pieces of machinery everywhere and the floor was covered with pieces of wood. In the back, there was a mammoth size fridge where I figured he kept the peppers he would use to torture me.

When grandpa finally appeared, he was wearing the green sweater with brown buttons we had given him for Christmas last year. He looked like a snapping turtle ready to attack, but surprisingly enough, he didn’t. Grandpa had taken off his glasses, and for the first time I realized he had hazel eyes. He took what was left of the key I was holding and placed it on the table. Out of the blue, he pulled out a lollypop and asked me if I liked the pink flavor. I told him I did and that pink was my favorite color. He gently took the wrapper off and before giving it to me he made me promise I wouldn’t tell grandma that he gave me a lollypop before dinner. We stayed in his workshop for a few hours and he told me stories from when he was a little boy.

That day was one of the most confusing days of my life. When supper was ready, grandpa Pedro sat next to me at the large rectangular dinner table and gave me a big smile. When grandma wasn’t looking, he took all of the cooked vegetables off my plate and pretended nothing had happened. Right before bedtime, I asked him if he would read me a story and with a tone of astonishment he replied, “me?” As he read me my story all I could think of was why this had never happened before. Why hadn’t I ever spent quality time with grandpa Pedro before this day? Why would grandma portray him as an evil ogre? He was so gentle and completely different from the image I had of him. His deep soothing voice slowly put me to sleep as he read me the story about the little pink bunny. As I felt his weight lift off the bed, I opened my eyes and thanked him for everything he had done that day and that I loved him very much. He kissed my forehead and said, “ I love you too mi longa, que duermas con lost angelitos”.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Act 3 Scene 1 Hamlet's Soliloquy (Kenneth Branagh)

Hamlet’s soliloquy in Act 3, Scene 1 is one of the most momentous instances in the play. Kenneth Branagh’s interpretation of Hamlet’s words brings to life the deeper meaning of this famous passage. By making specific decisions in his movements and tone, Branagh facilitates the understanding of Shakespeare’s writing.

The passage begins with the infamous lines, “to be, or not to be, that is the question;” (55). Hamlet is trying to decide weather it would be easier to kill himself or live his life. As he does so, he is looking at himself in a mirror and speaks almost in a constant tone. The fact that Branagh is speaking in front of a mirror reveals that perhaps Hamlet is so insecure with himself that he needs the comfort of his own image to encourage him to take action. But Branagh’s decision to deliver this line in monotone suggests that Hamlet does not care about his life. However, this it contradicted when he asks himself if it would be better to just “suffer” (56) from all of his problems or “to take arm against a sea of troubles, And by opposing, end them” (58-59). Branagh shows that Hamlet does indeed care but his life, but his madness will not allow him to think lucidly. At the moment when he delivers this line, Branagh bends his elbow and makes a fist with his right hand, and then takes a step forward. His actions suggest that he will actually take action and stop his suffering. The fist evokes a sense of violence, which may imply that Hamlet will use violence to deal with his problems. The fact that Branagh takes a step forward after he makes a fist is another sign of Hamlet’s insecurity. It shows that he will act violently before thinking about his actions, which might lead him to even greater problems.

The passage continues with Hamlet wondering if it were better to sleep or to dye. He confuses himself even more by coming to the conclusion that dying is sleeping; therefore dreams are a part of dying. Branagh shows Hamlet’s agitation by breathing heavier while delivering the line “-ay, there’s the rub, For in that sleep of death what dream may come” (64-65). Hamlet is afraid that he will not be able to get rid of his problems even after death. Also, while he is delivering the line, suspense classical music begins to play in the background, which acts as an emphasis on Hamlet’s confusion. The music evokes a sense of loneliness that has taken over Hamlet. He is unable to share his troubles with anyone causing him to drown in a sea of thought. The movement in the music symbolizes that turbulence that is happening in Hamlet’s mind.

Further on, Branagh stops and says, “When he himself might his quietus make” (74). Hamlet says that it would be easy to just end one’s own life, which is correspondingly portrayed by the stop in the actor’s motion. By instantly stopping the movement of his legs, Branagh is symbolizing the easiness with which he could stop the movement of his heart. At this moment, he also takes out a sword and places it in front of him. Once again, the idea of violence to end Hamlet’s problems is portrayed. But soon enough, Hamlet realizes that the reason why people don’t just kill themselves is because they are afraid of what will happen to their souls after death. At this point, Branagh places the sword on the left side of his face and says, “puzzles the will” (79). Hamlet thinks that the dead will be unable to use their self-control. They will be paralyzed from attaining any form of freedom and taking action. As the sword is placed on his face and he is looking at his reflection, Branagh says, “Thus conscience does make cowards [of us all]” (82). This suggests that “reflection” brings sanity to the human mind. As the actor is looking at his face in the mirror and the sword on his left cheek, he realizes that he is a coward for not killing himself, but a sane human being for not committing such foul act.

Finally, Branagh takes the sword off his face while saying, “With this regard their currents turn awry” (86) and touches the mirror with the tip of his sword. Branagh’s actions suggest that now that Hamlet has seen his reflection and is sane, his urge to kill will twist. He will no longer want to kill himself, but the person in his way. As soon as he finishes his statement, Ophelia’s footsteps are heard from a far. The fact that she is the first person to appear after Hamlet’s soliloquy indicates that perhaps she will be the person in his way. Ophelia may be the one that is killed as a result of Hamlet’s “currents” twisting.

Hamlet’s Soliloquy by Kenny Branagh is an outstanding representation of the event. By moving cautiously he allows the reader and the viewer to understand Shakespeare’s words while foreshadowing future events. His choice in tone and control over his breathing reveal Hamlet’s thoughts and emotions throughout his soliloquy.

James Joyce DJ

"At last it had come. He knelt in the silent gloom and raised his eyes to the white crucifix suspended above him. God could see that he was truly sorry. He would tell all his sins. His confession would be long, long. Everybody in the chapel would know then what sinner he had been. Let them know. It was true. But God had promised to forgive him if he was sorry. He was sorry. Hr clasped his hands and raised them toward the white form, praying with his darkened eyes, praying with all his trembling body, sawing his head to and fro like a lost creature , praying with whimpering lips."

This passage comes from the moment right before Stephen
confesses all of his sins. Joyce describes Stephen as taking on animal characteristics. He begins play wit his words and a rush of emotions come over him making him close his eyes, pray for forgiveness and eventually begins rambling, He says, "sawing his head to and fro like a creature." His moving back and forth reminds me of Icarus and his flight. Daedalus had told him to keep a constant path because either extreme would be dangerous. At this moment of desperation Stephen is rocking back and forth and feels emotions that resemble different extremes. He himself has gone to an extreme when he sinned with a prostitute. Both Icarus and Stephen were unable to find a middle way. Stephen want from being extremely religious and conservative to not having control of his emotions and having sex with a prostitute. Neither character was able to find a happy medium.

Feminist Chriticism

“A few pages later the masculine competition of Clongowes again forces Stephen to yearn for the womb… He longed to lay his head on his mother’s lap” (25-26)

When Stephen is being dropped off by his parents, his mother kisses him and tells him to be careful with the older boys. On the other hand, his father provides him with money. Here a difference is seen between thee female and the male. The father gives him money because he knows how bad the competition between males can be. Money is something that will help Stephen survives in his school. This is when Stephen begins to dislike the fact that his mother protects him. Now that he has to protect himself, all he can do is look for comfort in other “womb” like places.

Ciao, Hola, Hello, Hi

BING. BING. BING. The elevator was on the fifth floor. I stood there, in the first floor of my brick apartment building in Malden, Massachusetts; my new home in a diverse town just north of Boston. With sweaty palms and stiff legs, I waited for the number one to turn red, praying with all of my heart that a gringo, as we would stereotypically call them back home, wouldn’t show up. A gringo in Ecuador was famously known to be and American citizen with blond hair and blue eyes; but soon enough, the people of Malden contradicted this common belief.

BING. The gray doors opened. I rushed in and franticly pushed the number three. The doors suddenly reopened and a tall white male stepped in. My attempt to make it home alone had failed. “Hi”, said the man. Waiting for a response he stared at me, but no words were said. His intimidating eyes forced me to look down, and for one more time, I wished my parents had rented the apartment on the first floor. I knew that the elevator rides would be awkward and uncomfortable because of my lack of language comprehension. Hi, que significa esta palabra? I had attended a bilingual school in Ecuador prior my arrival where I had learned the American ABC’s and a few phrases that were supposed to make me feel like I actually spoke English. Hi? Por que no me lo habian ensenado antes? After flipping through the pages of my dictionary, I learned that this word was the equivalent of Hello.

Although I had expanded my vocabulary by learning the meaning of the word hi, I found myself incapable of mastering the English language. I felt ignorant in my ESL classes and for the first time in my life, I regretted moving. My inability to communicate and lack of friends caused me to isolate myself and depend on my toys for play dates. Ballerina Barbie became my best friend. I admired her for her multiple talents and I began to master the art of mumbling by pretending I was speaking in English with my perfect doll. I used Barbie as a gateway for doing all the things I only wished I could do.

My family stepped foot on American territory for the first time on September 11, 1999. My parents were convinced that moving to a different country, like previous times, would be a success. Unfortunately, the language barrier deprived me from adapting to my new home, I felt like an outsider, an alien. But I didn’t truly experience the life of an outcast until Middle Eastern terrorist bombed New York City. The country suffered a drastic change. Some Americans began to discriminate against immigrants, accusing them of bring terrorists. After September 11, 2001, I was no longer seen as just a foreigner, but an intruder as well. Although it was evident that I was not of Middle Eastern background, I felt discriminated as a Hispanic. I stopped speaking Spanish at school. Afraid of being judged I forced myself to learn English.

In my four years of high school, I’ve encountered a greater variety of cultures than I ever would have in any other country. Living in Malden for eight years has led me to question my own stereotypical definition of an American. Although growing up I was always exposed to different cultures, I had never seen a large quantity of people from different backgrounds all in one place. For the first time, I encountered Asians, Indians, and African Americans. This enriching exposure to diversity at my high school has developed a greater interest in foreign cultures and leads me to selecting International Relations as a field of study.

I just recently attended the “Issues of the 21st Century Conference” at Bucknell University. After listening to an inspiring presentation on Darfur by an International Relations major, and participating in a discussion with my Social Justice group on the matter, I have come to the realization that International Relations is something I truly and passionately want to pursue. Before the conference, my knowledge regarding the ways in which an International Relations major would allow me to help third world countries was limited. However, after meeting an inspiring example of someone with an IR major who has made a difference in the world just by sharing his knowledge with the students at the conference, I am confident that with my future education I will too make a remarkable difference in the world of education itself in order to pursue political and social change in countries like Darfur.